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Single-Phase vs. Three-Phase Power: What’s the Difference?

Single-Phase vs. Three-Phase Power: What’s the Difference?

When investing in a generator for your business, it’s difficult to know which one will meet your needs. You must consider voltages and power requirements, but it’s also important to consider the load you’re placing on the generator itself. Single-phase and three-phase power generators handle electrical loads differently, but what is the difference?


Generators burn fuel to create a mechanical force that generates an electrical current. This current is typically alternating, meaning that it can reverse its direction. In a single-phase generator, there is only one set of copper wiring for the current to run through, and there are normally three wires:

  • Grounded wires
  • Positive (neutral) wires
  • Negative (hot) wires

When the generator is running, the electrical current will flow between the wires to power whatever you’ve connected to the generator. Homes typically use single-phase power supplies, and this is largely because single-phase power is better suited for lighter loads. On average, single-phase generators have a max power of 240 kW, enough to power heating and lighting systems but not heavy equipment.


Single-phase generators have one set of wiring for the current to run through, while three-phase power generators have multiple circuits. Each phase of the alternating current (AC) signal is also 120 electrical degrees apart, giving enough separation to cover all 360 degrees of electrical currents. The alternating current can better handle heavier loads, like industrial equipment or large businesses, with these different circuits. Three-phase power systems can handle these loads and are also generally more efficient.

Key Differences

The main difference between single and three-phase power is that three-phase power is much more efficient. Electrical currents from a power source are not the most consistent, whether it’s coming from a grid or a generator. A single set of wires will replicate these fluctuations, and you’ll see different peaks and dips in voltage, making single-phase power inconsistent.

Alternatively, three-phase power delivers power at a constant rate. In addition to being steadier, three-phase power generators can handle loads that exceed 240 kW, the standard limitation for single-phase generators. Three-phase generators are also safer, as they require fewer amps to carry an electrical load than a single-phase power system will.

While the difference between single-phase and three-phase power may not seem the most consequential initially, it makes a big difference, especially when handling larger loads. It’s an important distinction to make, and here at Turnkey Industries, we know everything there is to know to ensure you get the industrial generator that suits your needs. We’ve been in this industry long enough to understand your power requirements and determine what generators will fit those requirements and your budget.

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